The Rohingya: Humanitarian Crisis or Security Threat?

The Rohingya: Humanitarian Crisis or Security Threat?

This article is part of “Southeast Asia: Refugees in Crisis,” an ongoing series  by The Diplomat for summer and fall 2015 featuring exclusive articles from scholars and practitioners tackling Southeast Asia’s ongoing refugee crisis.All articles in the series can be found here.

To respond to the alarming rise of stranded persons in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, the Royal Thai Government organized the “Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean” on May 29, 2015 in Bangkok. The meeting was convened to address the continuing exodus of migrants and refugees from Myanmar. These refugees are mainly Rohingya, a Muslim minority group. They have been treated as “second-class” and”non citizens,” suffering from social discrimination, massive violent repression, human rights violations, and political exclusion. In addition to repressive policies by the central government, the Rohingya have also faced extremely anti-Muslim sentiments fanned partly by government-supported Buddhist fundamentalism in Myanmar.

The Southeast Asian and South Asian region has witnessed tremendous human movement – including hundreds of thousands refugees from Myanmar trying to enter neighboring countries illegally – especially Bangladesh. However, despite the increasingly dire humanitarian crisis, most of the potential host states are reluctant to accept more Rohingya refugees. One of the major reasons for this is an increasing trend in the region of viewing the Rohingya issue not solely as a humanitarian issue, but also a security and political one. As awareness has grown in both dimensions – humanitarian and security – there is a growing recognition among the international community of the need to do more than just ignoring the worsening situation of the Rohingya.

Historically, the Rohingya are predominantly Muslim and closely related to the Bengali people. Originally, many of them migrated from the Indian subcontinent towards the east into ‘Theravada Buddhist Myanmar,’ especially during the British colonial time. Relations between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar started deteriorating during the country’s liberation struggle. Relatively soon after gaining independence, the new rulers in Myanmar identified the Rohingya as economic refugees, a move that would be significant to the socio-economic composition and political power structure of the country. A policy of repression soon followed, which treated the Rohingya as illegal migrants subject to eviction.

The severity of the Rohingya migration issue can be understood as a clear result of three intermingling factors.  First is the emergence of authoritarian (military) regimes in Myanmar. Second is the consequence of a cultural confrontation between different ethnic-religious communities in Myanmar. This conflict gained significance after the military rulers attempted to assimilate religious-ethnic minorities into the mainstream Burmese culture. A strategy of an enforced cultural unification, namely Burmanization, was used as a way of “National Reconsolidation.” Third is the initial ignorance and inaction from policymakers worldwide despite the fact that the Rohingya issue was increasingly having international implications.

Today, it would seem that awareness of the Rohingya and their illegal migration is finally rising within the international community. In part, however, this new attention to the Rohingya issue stems from the tendency to identify Rohingya refugees as a “non-traditional security threat.”

In particular, there is a growing conviction among analysts that the massive influx of the Rohingyas during the last decades is creating a multidimensional security crisis. As stateless refugees, they have become the face of security threats as well as various forms of psycho-social and human security challenges in Myanmar and in their new host countries across the region like Bangladesh.

Most Rohingya who have migrated to other countries live in extraordinarily deplorable conditions. Living in forms of involuntarily and illegal self-settlement, they have to deal regularly with security forces, the unease and resistance of local communities, and restricted access to food, drinking water, sufficient shelter, and clothing. Partly as a result of these circumstances, they are often more easily targeted by criminal networks, illegal businesses, and Islamic fundamentalist groups like the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), or Harkat-ulJihad-al Islami (Huji).

This in turn leads illegal Rohingya migrants – particularly those living in illegal camps or unregistered as refugees – to be perceived as the cause of conflict. The movement of Rohingya refugees begins to be viewed through the prism of the rising challenge of controlling Islamic terrorism and political Islam in the region.

At the heart of this view is the following worry: the Rohingya problem is contributing to and is partly responsible for the rise of international jihadist movements. In more operational terms, there is the claim that the Rohingya are helping to support Islamic fundamentalism by acting as a (passive) recruiting base for Islamic militant extremists and through direct support for religious fundamentalism.

It is claimed that some radicalized sections of the refugees actively maintain links with banned Islamist groupings like JMB or Huji. Some radicalized Rohingya are accused of not only sympathizing with their fundamentalist worldview but also actively providing resources for these Islamist outfits, for example, providing training on arms and explosives. Additionally, there is the accusation that the Rohingya are using their international network to allocate funds from like-minded international organizations for militant groups operating in their host countries, especially in Bangladesh.

Rohingya have also been held responsible for the undermining of the general law and order situation in their host societies. Besides terrorism, extremist violence, and religious extremism, the Rohingya crisis is also seen as being associated with all kinds of criminal activities including narcotics, human trafficking, illegal trade in SALW (small arms and light weapons) and ammunition, stealing, armed robbery, and maritime piracy. Other major concerns are smuggling and illegal cross-border infiltrations.

Additionally, Rohingya have increasingly linked with growing rates of crimes related to extortion, sexual harassment (including prostitution and sexual slavery), killings for organs, domestic servitude, and forced labor by criminal networks in their host countries.

However, there is the tendency among authorities of host countries to ignore the fact that the Rohingya are mostly the victims and not the perpetrators in these scenarios. Rather, it seems that the general tendency up to this point has been to focus on the refugee crisis as the causal factor for the increase in security concerns.

Rohingya have also been identified by some host governments and local communities as a negative disturbance to local economies, especially when they are settling in underdeveloped regions. Some fear that the Rohingya constitute an additional demographic pressure on the already densely populated area with scarce resources. Others claim that the (mostly illegal) penetration of the refugees in regional job markets leads to further socio-economic inequalities and reduces employment opportunities for the local workforce.

Still others suggest that security measures are needed because the refugee crisis is causing instability, leading to a real reduction in trade and commerce, especially in the Bangladesh-Myanmar relations. In this context, Rohingya are also blamed by state authorities for delays in enhancing regional connectivity (infrastructure) and hampering the working relationship between Dhaka and Naypyidaw.

With bilateral talks between Malaysia and Indonesia and the earlier mentioned Bangkok conference on “irregular migrations”

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on May 29, as well as other steps, the international approach to the Rohingya is finally moving from ignorance to action. But it would be naïve to think this trajectory is only due to the humanitarian crisis of the refugees. Rather, the negative impacts of illegal migration – particularly on the security side – have finally convinced the international community to act, even though this may be based on unfounded fears.

Given this, what is most important is to preserve the political will and to strengthen the decision-making procedures in order to work towards a coherent and comprehensive solution to the Rohingya problem. Attending to security concerns cannot be done at the expense of humanitarian needs.

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( merhrom) Posted in Uncategorized

Is the Andaman Sea refugee crisis set to resume?

Is the Andaman Sea refugee crisis set to resume?

With onset of sailing season, regional governments appear unprepared

<p>Rohingya Muslims wait for a small ferry boat at a refugee camp outside Sittwe in Myanmar's Rakhine state. After May's deadly refugee boat crisis, observers warn that a new wave of migrants and asylum seekers could soon take to the seas. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu/AFP)</p>

Rohingya Muslims wait for a small ferry boat at a refugee camp outside Sittwe in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. After May’s deadly refugee boat crisis, observers warn that a new wave of migrants and asylum seekers could soon take to the seas. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu/AFP)

  • Jack Wyatt, Kuala Lumpur
  • Asia
  • October 5, 2015

There are fears the coming end of the monsoon season on the Bay of Bengal will trigger a new flow of migrants and asylum seekers streaming southward across the Andaman Sea.

Rights groups and advocates for migrants warn that regional authorities may be alarmingly unprepared. Some fear a repeat of the May refugee crisis, which saw thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshis stranded at sea, with multiple countries at first reluctant to take them in.

“Normally by the end of [September] or the week following [the Muslim festival of] Eid al-Adha, in early October, we see boats begin to move again,” said Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, which advocates for the rights of Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya.

While the numbers of migrants and asylum seekers who will make the journey remain uncertain, continued factors pushing Rohingya and Bangladeshis to leave make some flow of migrants a near certainty, she added.

In May, thousands of people fled Myanmar and Bangladesh to escape persecution and poverty.

The crisis made international headlines after mass graves of trafficking victims were found along the Thailand-Malaysia border. Governments threatened to crack down on human trafficking, prompting smuggling networks to abandon their human cargo at sea. Thousands of people, mainly Bangladeshi and Rohingya, were left adrift on leaking boats and shuttled between countries.

The U.N. Refugee Agency estimated that 370 people have died making the dangerous crossing in 2015 alone.

After an extended stalemate, an emergency meeting between regional states on May 29 in Bangkok saw many migrants find relative safety in Malaysia and Indonesia. As the monsoon season began, the flow of people soon slowed due to adverse sailing conditions. However, with the season’s approaching end, observers warn that a new round of departures could soon begin again.

This May 14 photo shows migrants and asylum seekers on a boat drifting in Thai waters. Rights groups say authorities may be unprepared for a new wave of people trying to reach their countries by boats. (Photo by Christophe Archambault/AFP)
‘The picture is not very bright’

“I have a feeling that the crisis will continue and the flow will continue from Bangladesh,” said Mohammad Harun Al Rashid, regional coordinator of the nongovernmental organization Caram Asia, which works on health and migration.

The pressing issue, he said, is not only whether governments are ready to house new migrants, but whether all the stakeholders involved, including the international community, are prepared to address the problem.

“We need U.N. agencies to be truthful and we need the international community to say it out openly,” he said.

“We cannot play the same politics of the past that we have played — just ‘diplomacy, diplomacy,’ but in reality nothing is happening … We don’t want to see any lives lost on the sea or in mass graves … but the picture is not very bright.”

The Arakan Project’s Lewa believes that there could be relatively few sailings early on as smuggling networks test the waters.

“The beginning of the season will be very low, not like previous years at all, and there is no typical pattern,” she said. “But with Thailand closed, it will not be like it was in the other seasons. I think we will see test boats first. If they are successful, more will come.”

During the May crisis, more than 1,100 migrants who landed on Langkawi island in northern Malaysia were taken to detention centers.

Reports from migrant support groups suggest that of these migrants, more than 500 Bangladeshis were returned with the help of Bangladeshi authorities while 200 remain in a detention center. The Rohingya remained in the center because Malaysia was not willing or able to send these migrants back to face almost certain persecution in Myanmar.

The U.N. Refugee Agency recently reported that in the first six months of 2015, 31,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis departed from the Bay of Bengal on smugglers’ boats, representing a 34 percent increase from 2014. The rise has been attributed to a number of factors, including political developments within Myanmar prompting more persecuted Rohingya to flee.

Despite increasing migrant numbers, Al Rashid says regional governments have an opportunity to reduce the impact of trafficking networks — but they must act quickly and together.

“Trafficking networks are multinational companies” made up of large and small operators, he said. “If the big shots come back, the operation will continue. If governments act within the next month, no one will be able to come in, but cooperation is needed.”

A Rohingya woman from Myanmar offers prayers during a rally over the refugee boat crisis at a hall in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur on June 3. (Photo by Mohd Rasfan/AFP)


One particular area of concern is Bangladesh’s lack of enforcement on trafficking cases. According to Al Rashid, authorities in Bangladesh have failed to complete prosecutions on a single trafficking case related to the boat crisis.

“Out of 1,681 cases of trafficking in Bangladesh, from those filed, those who have died, disappeared, or been killed, there has been no judgment yet,” he said. “That is the failure of Bangladesh. With failed enforcement, traffickers will certainly use it to continue.”

Thailand has arrested and issued warrants for more than 15 officials accused of involvement in trafficking, including army Lt. Gen. Manas Kongpaen, a provincial mayor and a number of policemen. Thailand has also announced that it will seal the border between Myanmar and Ranong province, through which human traffickers have smuggled thousands of people.

The attempted shutdown of the overland routes has changed the flow of people throughout the region. This, combined with the detention of roughly 500 Rohingya migrants in immigration detention centers, has made Thailand a less desirable transit or destination point for migrants and smugglers.

According to the Arakan Project, which has spoken with Rohingya migrants following the May crisis, Indonesia is also not a desirable destination. This should keep the focus on Malaysia as the preferred destination country for migrants from the Bay of Bengal.

Regional governments and international agencies have been slow to identify a timely and effective response to these movements.

The migrant flows from the Bay of Bengal are known as “mixed flows,” meaning there are asylum seekers in the group — Rohingya, for the most part — and mainly Bangladeshi migrants who are leaving to find undocumented work abroad.

As such, the responses and solutions for each group differ widely. The Rohingya on the one hand, are fleeing persecution in Myanmar, where anti-Muslim sentiment has sparked deadly riots and displaced tens of thousands.

Bangladeshi migrants, on the other hand, often view Malaysia as a land of opportunity, and the Malaysian government has done little to dispel this image.

Ultimately, the problem can’t be solved unless authorities deal with the factors pushing more and more migrants and asylum seekers to leave their homes in the first place.

“Unless the root causes driving people to leave Myanmar and Bangladesh are addressed, we can expect more people to risk their lives on smugglers’ boats,” Vivian Tan, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Refugee Agency, told

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By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( merhrom) Posted in Uncategorized

President U Thein Sein ‘does not need to respond to lawsuit filed against him in US’

President U Thein Sein ‘does not need to respond to lawsuit filed against him in US’

Myanmar President Thein Sein (C) gestures as he visits on U Paing Bridge in Mandalay, on 27 September 2015. Photo: Bo Bo/Mizzima

Myanmar President Thein Sein (C) gestures as he visits on U Paing Bridge in Mandalay, on 27 September 2015. Photo: Bo Bo/Mizzima

U Zaw Htay, the director of Myanmar’s President’s Office, said the Myanmar government does not need to respond to the lawsuit filed by the Burma Task Force in the Manhattan federal court in the United States against President U Thein Sein over alleged discrimination against Bengalis.

“Whatever the court said, our country is an independent country, so the leader and the government do not need to deal with the case in which the ‘Myanmar-Bengali’ filed the lawsuit in court. There is no reason to respond to the summons, no reason to go there,” he said.

According to a report on Reuters: “The complaint filed on Thursday in Manhattan federal court accused Thein Sein and top officials of planning and instigating hate crimes and discrimination amounting to genocide” against Muslim Rohingya.

The Myanmar government refuses to use the word Rohingya, claiming the Muslim minority, living primarily in Rakhine State bordering Bangladesh, are illegal Bengalis.

“We did not receive any letter. Anyway, whether they send letter or not, our country is an independent country, so we reject the case. The lawsuit was filed by a Bengali group in exile led by Htay Lwin Oo. We heard that the court has accepted the case with two charges,” said U Zaw Htay.

Burma Task Force, comprised of 14 Muslim organizations in the US, filed the lawsuit against President U Thein Sein and other Myanmar leaders. Burma Task Force is a US-based organization which says it is combating discrimination against the Rohingya in Myanmar, and working to secure equal rights for them.

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By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( merhrom) Posted in Uncategorized

Myanmar radical monk endorses ruling party in election, raps opposition

Myanmar radical monk endorses ruling party in election, raps opposition

Myanmar’s firebrand Buddhist monk Wirathu has openly endorsed President Thein Sein’s ruling party in the Nov. 8 general election, saying Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party was “full of themselves” and unlikely to win the vote.

Hardline monks will push for laws banning Muslim dress and other Muslim customs, Wirathu told Reuters on Sunday before a rally held by thousands of members of the radical Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha.

The remarks could stoke religious tension, already high in Myanmar after Ma Ba Tha played a big role in securing passage of four so-called Protection of Race and Religion Laws seen as targeting women and the country’s Muslim minority.

The group has emerged as a force ahead of the poll, criticizing Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which opposed the four laws.

“NLD people are so full of themselves,” Wirathu, 47, who is a leading ultra-nationalist member of Ma Ba Tha, but does not run the organization, said in an interview. “They don’t have a high chance of winning in elections.”

Experts say pressure on the NLD can translate into support for the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

“If we have to choose the best, it is the President Thein Sein’s government,” Wirathu added. “They could open the doors and work step by step for peace and development.”

Asked about Wirathu’s remarks, a senior NLD member, Win Htein, said, “He should go to hell … According to the teachings of Buddha, monks shouldn’t get involved in political affairs. They should be neutral.”

Ma Ba Tha has recently sought to tone down its image, portraying itself as a peaceful and apolitical organization, but Wirathu’s endorsement of Thein Sein underscores an appetite to influence politics.

Wirathu denied Ma Ba Tha was campaigning for the USDP, but said it was “grateful” to his party for supporting the race and religion laws.

“If the NLD forms the government and if they try to amend the laws, they will have to deal with Ma Ba Tha,” he said.


Wirathu and other monks have been linked to the sectarian violence that spread in Myanmar in 2012, killing hundreds and leaving thousands without homes. Anti-Muslim unrest simmered under the junta that ran the country for nearly half a century and erupted into clashes after the end of military rule.

Wirathu said that next on Ma Ba Tha’s agenda were Muslim veils and customs, such as ritual slaughter of cattle during Eid, one of the most important Muslim holidays, and butchering of animals in halal tradition.

“We have plans. We will lobby the government first to stop the slaughter. If necessary, we will go to the parliament,” the monk said.

“Slaughtering of cattle makes young Muslims familiar with blood. If they really want peace, they should stop slaughtering animals and the tradition of halal butchering,” said Wirathu.

In January, the monk caused outrage by calling a U.N. human rights expert who said persecuted Rohingya Muslims should have citizenship in Myanmar a “whore”. Wirathu previously has urged Buddhists to boycott Muslim shops and stop interfaith marriages, calling mosques “enemy bases.”

Wirathu said he would campaign against the tradition of Muslim women covering their heads, and sometimes, their faces.

“They use the robes in suicide bombings, helping men to pretend they are women,” said Wirathu. “It is a security concern and a threat to the sovereignty of the country. We will make that tradition stop.”

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( merhrom) Posted in Uncategorized

7 Things to Know About Burma’s Upcoming Elections

7 Things to Know About Burma’s Upcoming Elections

Charlie Campbell @charliecamp6ell

Oct. 1, 2015Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Ky smiles as she greets her supporters during her campaign in her constituency of Kawhmu township outside Yangon
Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Ky smiles as she greets her supporters during her campaign in her constituency of Kawhmu township outside Yangon
Soe Zeya Tun—Reuters Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi smiles as she greets her supporters during her campaign in her constituency of Kawhmu township, outside Rangoon, on Sept. 21, 2015
The Southeast Asian nation hopes to finally throw off the shackles of military dictatorship

Early next month Burma goes to the polls for what are shaping up to be its freest general elections for 25 years. The National League for Democracy (NLD) party of former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, is poised to win a sizeable chunk of the 664 legislative seats. That would be a watershed moment for the former pariah nation, which has opened up politically and economically since democratic reforms were introduced three years ago.

However, significant problems remain. Suu Kyi, who is already a legislator, remains barred from becoming President, owing to her having married a Briton and having two sons who are U.K. citizens. These constitutional provisions were introduced by the former junta specifically to scupper the democracy icon’s political aspirations.

On Tuesday, the NLD announced it had filed a complaint against the country’s Union Election Commission regarding error-strewn voter lists, alleged defamation against Suu Kyi and perceived bias in favor of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

All this will worry Washington. U.S. President Barack Obama has visited Burma twice in the past three years, championing the democratic transition and rolling back economic sanctions. This is not simply altruism: a free, prosperous Burma (officially now known as Myanmar) would prove a boon to his administration’s much-touted “rebalancing” to Asia. Conversely, any electoral skulduggery would prove embarrassing.

Here are seven factors that may prove decisive as the nation heads to the ballot box on Nov. 8.

1. NLD fumbling
On May 27, 1990, two years after mass student-led democracy protests shook the nation, largely free and fair polls saw the NLD secure 60% of the popular vote and 80% of parliamentary seats (392 out of 485). But the military refused to honor the result and Burma returned to suffocating dictatorship. In the interim, Suu Kyi spent 15 years under house arrest. The euphoria that accompanied the Nobel Laureate’s release and subsequent election to parliament in April 2012 by-elections, during which the NLD won 43 out of 45 contested seats, raised hopes that the party would romp home if the 2015 polls were similarly unfettered.

However, the mood has soured markedly since then. A controversial party list saw some potential big name candidates — including celebrated former political prisoners — shunned, and not a single Muslim among the 1,090 names, a testament to the party’s cowing to an increasingly vocal, hard-line Buddhist clique. Several senior party members have been expelled for questioning these decisions, prompting accusations of a lack of democracy within a pro-democracy party. Last week, the NLD leadership reportedly banned candidates from speaking to the media for three weeks. And even though Suu Kyi remains barred from the presidency, no alternative candidate has been proffered for the top job. “You are not voting for individuals,” Suu Kyi told supporters last month. “You are voting for change.” An election manifesto has finally been published but is sparse on how exactly this change is to be achieved.

2. USDP rumblings
Given the abuses suffered during more than half a century of dictatorship, few expected the USDP, staffed by former junta generals, to remain a political force once Burma made the transition to democracy. However, the party has recast itself as a bulwark against largely chimerical Islamic fundamentalism, aligning itself with prominent figures in the right-wing Buddhist clergy, and is far from spent.

At the same time, the party remains riven between the old and new guard, as illustrated by last month’s dramatic purge of Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann, the party chair and formerly No. 3–ranked junta general. Shwe Mann apparently paid a price for conciliatory overtures to Suu Kyi, which angered many conservative and military elements within his party.

Meanwhile, other key figures have also departed, including popular President’s Office Minister Aung Min, the government’s chief negotiator with ethnic armed groups, who is widely seen as a moderating force. Along with Soe Thein, an influential former Minister for Industry, Aung Min quit the USDP to run as an independent after being refused a safe seat.

3. Ma Ba Tha
Radical Buddhist nationalism is increasingly defining postreform Burma. The earlier 969 movement to boycott Muslim businesses and services has grown into the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, commonly known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha. It crusades for Buddhist supremacy and Buddhist-Muslim apartheid. “It’s led by some of the biggest abbots in the country,” says David Mathieson, senior researcher on Burma for Human Rights Watch.

Four pieces of highly discriminatory legislation were passed in July, forbidding interfaith marriages, prohibiting Buddhist women (but not men) from changing their religion, restricting the number of children designated groups can bear, and outlawing polygamy. “They basically want to control women’s bodies,” says Mathieson.

Ma Ba Tha is growing increasingly influential, claiming (although the facts are widely disputed) to have 250 chapters and 10 million members around the country. Ma Ba Tha remains close to the UDSP — party officials are not shy about donating large sums to the cause — and has aimed barbs at the NLD. Cognizant of the group’s swelling influence, even Suu Kyi has refused to outright condemn its unashamedly bigoted agenda.

4. Rohingya genocide
The plight of Burma’s million-strong Rohingya Muslim minority underscores the limits of reform. Deemed “one of the world’s most persecuted peoples” by the U.N., around 140,000 Rohingya currently fester in squalid displacement camps in western Arakan state after pogroms began flaring up in May 2012. Deprived of adequate food, shelter and medical supplies, thousands have attempted to flee in rickety boats, often cast adrift by people-smugglers.

During the last widely condemned elections in 2010, the central government cynically bestowed voting rights on the Rohingya, who expressed support for the USDP. But they only did this for the politically expedient goal of seeing off the challenge of the ethnic Rakhine parties, the Rohingya’s longtime foe. This even saw some Rohingya MPs in parliament.

This year, those voting rights have been stripped away and no Rohingya have been allowed to register as candidates. This has led to an “unparalleled tide of despair,” says Matthew Smith, founder of the Fortify Rights NGO, who has just returned from three weeks documenting the human-rights situation in Rakhine state. “People are planning to take to the seas again.” Sadly, the partly U.S.-funded Union Election Commission has not overturned the Rohingya’s state-level systematic disenfranchisement.

5. Ethnic unease
Burma boasts 135 official ethnicities — although the Rohingya were axed from this list in 1982, depriving them of even that bare minimum of recognition.

The nation’s seven main ethnic groups boast namesake states that share frontiers with Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. Virtually since independence in 1948, these minorities — currently comprising a third of Burma’s 51 million population — have complained of persecution by the central government, which is dominated by the Bamar ethnic group. Aligned rebel militias have waged the world’s longest running civil war to seek greater autonomy. The Burmese military, in turn, has exploited the specter of Balkanization to maintain its grip on power.

Clashes continue unabated despite recent peace talks, particularly in Kachin and Shan states by the Sino-Burmese border. As a result, more than 300,000 people have been displaced since President Thein Sein took power and reforms began. This is in addition to the 140,000 refugees that languish in nine main camps across the Thai border, many having been there since the 1980s.

Sporadic violence entails the likely suspension of voting in constituencies where security cannot be guaranteed. Already marginalized communities thus feel excluded from the democratic transition. Frustration is building. “The local populations have more animosity towards the Tatmadaw [Burmese armed forces] now than we’ve seen in a very long time,” says Smith, “Elections are only going to increase tensions.”

At the same time, ethnic parties maintain largely cohesive support in their home states, and could team up to become a political force within the new parliament, perhaps striking a deal with the NLD, with which they share the goal of a federal state with power devolved to the regions. This would certainly worry military figures, who profit from exploiting jade, teak and other natural resources found in regional areas. But then it is the military that ultimately decides whether peace deals remain intact, and votes go ahead.

6. Economic faltering
Burma’s return to the international fold saw a rash of Western businesses jostling to exploit the nation’s cheap workforce, abundant natural resources and enviable geographical position between regional superpowers India and China. Although there have been certain cosmetic changes, such as shiny new cars on the streets of Rangoon, the rolling back of economic sanctions has not heralded the kind of resurgence many expected.

Professor Sean Turnell, an expert on Burmese economics at Australia’s Macquarie University, says the stalling was due to pre-election politicking and the lobbying of powerful regime cronies opposed to increased competition. This “was all made manifest by the surprising number of significant economic bills left ‘unpassed’ when the parliament was closed down at the end of August,” says Turnell, citing Burma’s “antediluvian” system of bank regulation and Company Law that dates back to a Colonial Act of 1914. Tellingly, though, while the government lacked the energy to push much-needed economic legislation, “it did find time to pass all four discriminatory and divisive religious laws,” adds Turnell.

7. A jittery military
The hope that November’s elections will be free and fair is curtailed by the constitutional stipulation that 25% of seats remain reserved for armed-forces personnel, giving the powerful military an effective veto over constitutional amendments, which require over 75% of lawmakers to pass. “They’ve already stuffed 25% of the ballots,” says Mathieson. Shwe Mann’s support for changing this clause most likely lay behind his purge, say observers, who remain divided on how much influence former junta supremo Senior General Than Shwe still wields in retirement. Certainly, the generals are not satisfied to be confined to the barracks, and should the ballot box throw up an unpalatable result, they may be spurred to intervene once again. Should the NLD perform well, another coup cannot be ruled out.

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By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( merhrom) Posted in Uncategorized

Rakhine Extremists Tried To Attack Rohingyas In Aung Mingalar Quarter In Sittwe

Rakhine Extremists Tried To Attack Rohingyas In Aung Mingalar Quarter In Sittwe

An estimated 4,250 Rohingya live in the Aung Mingalar ghetto in Sittwe, segregated from their Rakhine neighbors. Police officers and barricades mark the boundaries; many of the ghetto residents referred to it as an “open prison.” —Courtesy of Paula Bronstein Getty Images Reportage for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
RB News
September 22, 2015
Sittwe, Arakan – A group of Rakhine extremists tried to enter Aung Mingalar quarter in Sittwe to attack the Rohingyas yesterday at 11 pm local time.
The Rakhine extremist group was stopped by the security forces at the gate of the quarter. But the group argued to enter. However, the army officers arrived and arrested them while they are quarreling with the security forces, according to a resident of Aung Mingalar quarter.
The army officers asked the Rohingyas to take the responsibilities as sentry guards rotationally.
As the elections in Myanmar will be held on November 8th and the political parties started the election campaign since the last two weeks. The chair of opposition party, National League for Democracy, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has announced that she will be travelling to Arakan State for election campaign. Since her travel plan has made announcement, the situation in Arakan State became abnormal. The Rakhine hardliner politicians do not want opposition party or the ruling party in Arakan State.
Aung Mingalar quarter is only a Rohingya quarter in Sittwe town. In June 2012 about 10,000 people lived there but later people fled to refugee camps and some fled to Malaysia and Thailand. As of now about 4,000 people remain.

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By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( merhrom) Posted in Uncategorized

UN Chief Airs Pre-Poll Concerns on Vote-Barring, Religious Harmony

UN Chief Airs Pre-Poll Concerns on Vote-Barring, Religious Harmony

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shakes hands with Burma’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin ahead of the UN General Assembly in New York, September 24, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
By Feliz Solomon
September 30, 2015
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon calls for a credible, inclusive election and increased efforts to bridge racial and ethnic divides.
RANGOON — Burma’s upcoming general election will mark a “milestone” in the country’s reform process, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday, while underscoring a number of disappointing developments in poll procedures to date.
Addressing a meeting of the UN Partnership Group on Myanmar, as the country is officially called, the secretary general stressed the importance of ensuring a “free and unfettered process for candidates and voters.”
Delivered in New York during a session of the 70th General Assembly and in advance of Burma’s Universal Periodic Review (UN-UPR), a human rights assessment carried out for all UN member states on a rotating 4.5-year schedule, Ban’s remarks contained a number of recommendations to the Burmese government to ensure credibility of the Nov. 8 poll, which is expected to be the nation’s freest and fairest following decades of military rule.
Addressing the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of stateless Rohingya Muslims, who earlier this year had their suffrage rights revoked, Ban said authorities “must ensure that all those who were able to vote in previous elections retain those rights.”
“The revocation of white cards is a step in the wrong direction,” Ban said, referring to temporary identity cards that allowed them to vote in previous polls. “I am deeply disappointed by this effective disenfranchisement of the Rohingya and other minority communities.”
Last week, Burma’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, who was present at Tuesday’s meeting, defended the government’s decision to disenfranchise the beleaguered minority, likening their status to green card holders in the United States.
The Burmese government and much of the population view Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, though many say they have lived in the country for generations. The group is denied citizenship by a controversial law passed in 1982, and is officially referred to as “Bengali.”
“I am disappointed that the authorities have so far not been able to summon the political will for decisive action on the broader issue of citizenship,” Ban said of the government’s sluggish response to calls to normalize the naturalization process.
Most Rohingya reside in western Burma’s Arakan State, also called Rakhine, where deadly riots broke out between Muslim and Buddhist communities in mid-2012. About 140,000 people were initially displaced by the violence, mostly Rohingya, many of whom still live in displacement camps where they are subject to restrictions on movement, education, healthcare and livelihoods.
“In Rakhine, I am appalled by the humanitarian conditions of the Rohingya and Kaman communities,” Ban said, pointing out that those circumstances ultimately led to a regional refugee crisis.
Rights groups estimate that some 100,000 people fled Arakan State by boat in efforts to reach Malaysia or other neighboring countries, many of them ending up in the hands of human traffickers. The secretary general warned that more people could attempt to make the perilous journey in the months to come, as the monsoon season comes to a close.
More broadly, Ban raised the issue of a “rise of chauvinist sentiment” and “strident anti-Muslim sentiment… as well as antagonism against international organizations, including the United Nations.”
In January of this year, the UN human rights rapporteur for Burma, Yanghee Lee, was met with protest upon her second visit to the country since assuming the post in mid-2014. Shortly after she departed, influential monk U Wirathu referred to her as a “bitch” and a “whore” during a public rally further fuelling a widespread perception that the United Nations was biased in favor of Muslims.
When she returned in August, Yanghee told reporters that the government “hampered” her mandate by limiting her length of stay, denying her access to Arakan State, canceling her appointments and intimidating her interlocutors. Her predecessor Tomás Ojea Quintana also faced hostility in the country in 2013, coming under attack by an angry mob in central Burma’s Meiktila, the site of deadly communal riots earlier that year.
“Regrettably, recent steps by the Government risk to further fan the flames of the communal divide,” the secretary general warned, referring to the recent enactment of four so-called “race and religion protection laws” propagated by Wirathu and a Buddhist nationalist movement with which he is associated.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has routinely rejected the implications of UN rights envoys, and has yet to make good on a commitment to establish an in-country headquarters for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). On this point Ban stated his “wish to reiterate the importance of the early establishment of an OHCHR office with a full mandate in Myanmar.”
Also on Tuesday, a leading human rights group, Fortify Rights, issued a formal submission to the United Nations preempting the UN-UPR set to take place on Nov. 9, the day after Burma’s landmark election. The group said the submission documented “widespread and systematic torture, killings, forced population transfers, persecution, and other international crimes committed by Myanmar authorities with impunity since 2011.”
Fortify Rights also called for the release of all prisoners of conscience in Burma. President Thein Sein came close to fulfilling his promise of freeing all political prisoners by the end of 2013, but many activists have since been jailed and hundreds now await trial, including scores of youths and their supporters jailed after a brutal March 10 crackdown on student demonstrations.
Ban commended advances in freedom of expression and the press, but stressed that both need to be “strengthened,” adding that “actions against media and activists as well as arbitrary arrests and detention must stop.”
The secretary general said he met with Thein Sein on Sept. 3, when he conveyed the importance of conducting and honoring the results of the upcoming election to the satisfaction of the electorate and political leaders.
The current session of the UN General Assembly began on Sept. 15. Ban Ki-moon, a South Korean statesman, is nearing the end of his second term as secretary general after his appointment in 2007. His successor will be selected during the General Assembly in late 2016.

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By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( merhrom) Posted in Uncategorized

Myanmar Buddhist hardliners force subdued festivities for Muslims

Myanmar Buddhist hardliners force subdued festivities for Muslims

Residents stand in a queue to receive meat from Muslim people during the Eid al-Adha festival in Yangon on Sept. 25. Muslims in some of Myanmar’s smaller townships say pressure from Buddhist hardliners has forced low-key celebrations this year. (Photo by Phyo Hein Kyaw/AFP)
By John Zaw
September 28, 2015
In smaller townships, Eid al-Adha celebrations are understated
Muslims in Myanmar have been forced to keep celebrations of one of Islam’s major feast days, Eid al-Adha, low-key, fearing reprisals from a Buddhist hardline group pressuring local governments to ban cattle slaughters that are central to the festivities.
Local authorities appear to be targeting Muslims celebrating Eid al-Adha in smaller townships such as Yamethin and Tharzi in Mandalay Division, according to Muslim community members who spoke with
“We celebrate our feast day quietly … and remind young people not to go around the town wearing nice dresses,” said Aung Thein, a Muslim leader in Meikhtila in central Myanmar. “And we also have to bring meat to the town quietly after carrying out the cow’s slaughter in the outskirts.”
He said local members of the influential Buddhist nationalist group, Ma Ba Tha, have gone around town checking on whether cattle slaughters have taken place.
Meikhtila is no stranger to religious conflict. Tensions between Buddhists and Muslims flared into deadly violence in 2013, resulting in the deaths of 40 people, with dozens more injured.
Across the Buddhist-majority country, long-standing anti-Muslim sentiment has also triggered conflict, particularly in western Rakhine state, when violence in 2012 left more than 200 people dead and forced tens of thousands — mostly Rohingya Muslims — to flee their homes. An estimated 140,000 people in the state still live in temporary camps for displaced people.
Ma Ba Tha, or the Committee for the Protection of Race and Religion, has ratcheted up anti-Muslim rhetoric in recent months. This has raised fears that religion will be used as a political tool as the country gears up for historic elections Nov. 8 — another reason why Muslims are keen to avoid the spotlight now.
Eid al-Adha is an important celebration in Islam. The festival commemorates the story of the Prophet Abraham, also revered by Christians and Jews, who was willing to sacrifice his only son at God’s command.
Traditionally, Muslims in Mandalay held public celebrations for Eid al-Adha at local mosques, where they distributed meat to needy people, according to Aung Zaw Win, a local Muslim resident.
“Now we have to do it in our homes instead,” he said.

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By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( merhrom) Posted in Uncategorized

Can a New Tool Help the U.S. Say (and Mean) ‘Never Again’ for Genocide?

By Siobhán O’GradySeptember 21, 2015 – 6:14 pm

Can a New Tool Help the U.S. Say (and Mean) ‘Never Again’ for Genocide?

Can genocide be predicted and stopped before it starts?

Officials from the United States Holocaust Museum hope a new online tool will be able to do just that. If it works, policymakers may be able to determine which countries are at the greatest risk of descending into mass violence — and then decide how far they want to go to prevent it.

Cameron Hudson, who directs the museum’s genocide prevention center, told Foreign Policy that the goal of the Early Warning Project is to systematically track “all the things we know to be warning signs” and try to put them in front of experts and officials with the power to potentially intervene. The new system went into effect on Monday.

A country’s risk for mass atrocities — defined by Hudson as more than 1,000 targeted killings in one year — is determined by statistical models that weigh social, political, and economic factors that could contribute to state-led violence.

Compiled together on one site, the project will also allow experts from around the world to weigh in on whether they believe the project’s statistical analysis is accurate or to argue that a given country’s level of risk could change due to factors the computer may have missed. In Nigeria, for example, the 2015 statistics failed to take into account that a largely successful election in March will likely reverse some of the concerns that ranked it second on this year’s risk list. In some cases, countries already experiencing mass atrocities appear on the at-risk list. Hudson said those countries are potentially not only at risk for ongoing atrocities, but are also at risk for a brand new series of targeted killings. Syria, for example, did not make the top ten, largely because an entirely new conflict is not expected to erupt there in addition to the ongoing civil war.

The project’s inspiration traces back to 2008, when a genocide prevention task force co-chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen published a report outlining ways in which the U.S. government could work to mitigate mass atrocities.

Their overwhelming conclusion? With the right forecasting tools, genocide and other mass atrocities can be prevented before they even begin.

According to the data made available Monday, the following 10 countries are most at risk for state-led mass killings this year:

Myanmar — 13.2 percent

Although its numbers slipped slightly since 2014, Myanmar remains more vulnerable for state-led atrocities than any other country in the world. This is due largely to a history of state-led discrimination against the Rohingya, an ethnic and religious minority regularly targeted by the government through discriminatory policies. The Rohingya have been systematically stripped of their citizenship and thousands have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh and Malaysia, where they continue to face persecution. According to Hudson, the Burmese policies that target the Rohingya could also endanger smaller minority groups in Myanmar, including other Muslim minorities.

Nigeria — 12.3 percent

The African power’s statistical risk for state-led mass killings dramatically increased in the last year, from just 2.2 percent in 2014 to 12.3 percent in 2015. The risk factors are largely related to the rise of Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group that has killed tens of thousands in Nigeria’s northeast and has in turn sparked religious discrimination against Muslims. Poor governance has hindered an effective military response against the group, and the Nigerian military has itself been accused of atrocities by human rights groups, including Amnesty International. Hudson noted, however, that the statistics for any given year are really a reflection of what happened the year before. “I would fully anticipate that Nigeria’s ranking in 2016 will go down because it had a very orderly transition of power in the last presidential election which unfortunately wasn’t captured in the statistical analysis,” Hudson said.

Sudan — 8.5 percent

The risk for state-led mass killings in Sudan inched up from 8.3 to 8.5 percent in 2015. Decades of civil war killed more than 2.5 million Sudanese, and the government in Khartoum has been accused of overseeing systematic repression and attacks on minority groups and political dissenters. Despite South Sudan’s successful breakaway from the north in 2011, violence continues in both countries. The International Criminal Court in the Hague has issued multiple warrants for the arrest of the country’s president, Omar al-Bashir, who they have accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Egypt — 5.4 percent

In 2015, the statistical risk for Egypt rose from 1.8 to 5.4 percent. In 2013, Egyptian security forces as many as 900 protesters, the majority of whom were supporters and members of the Muslim Brotherhood. And since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s election in 2014, the former military leader has expanded the jurisdiction of military courts, targeted media organizations, and sentenced hundreds of his opponents to death or life in prison. A combination of these factors contribute to the country’s risk for a new mass killing.

Central African Republic — 5.3 percent

In 2015, the risk in the CAR increased from 5 to 5.3 percent. An ongoing civil war, motivated by religious, political, and social factors, means the CAR is still at risk for new outbreaks of mass killings. A report made public in January by the United Nations claimed Christian militias were already responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Muslims there, and ongoing tensions between rebel factions means there threats for continued violence remain.

South Sudan — 4.5 percent

For a conflict that began in 2013, the risk in South Sudan increased again from 3.4 to 4.5 percent between 2014 and 2015. Despite a recent peace deal signed between warring factions there, international observers have expressed concern that the deal will not be maintained. The United States helped lay the groundwork for the country’s 2011 split from Sudan, and provides significant humanitarian aid to those displaced by conflict that broke out there in 2013. Washington pressured President Salva Kiir to sign the peace deal with the rebels by threatening U.N. sanctions if he rejected the deal.

Democratic Republic of the Congo — 4.2 percent

The risk for mass slaughter increased from 3.0 to 4.2 percent this year. More than 5 million Congolese have been killed since civil war broke out there in the mid-1990s, and in recent years, various rebel groups have continued to disrupt civilian life in the country’s war-torn east. In 2012 and 2013, the Rwandan-backed M23 killed thousands and displaced close to one million. This year, a small Islamist-influenced group called the Allied Democratic Forces, along with other small militias, continue to threaten the country’s stability.

Afghanistan — 4.0 percent

In Afghanistan, the risk increased from 2.4 to 4 percent this year. Although the international community, and Washington in particular, touted President Ashraf Ghani’s election win as a step forward for Afghanistan, lingering political tensions and Taliban presence continue to threaten civilian safety. And Ghani has largely failed to improve the country’s flailing economy or hastily improve security, both of which risk his local popularity there.

Pakistan — 3.9 percent

Instability continues to reign in Pakistan, where Taliban insurgents maintain strongholds and regularly launch attacks on civilians as well as Pakistani security forces. In December 2014, more than 100 school children were killed by Taliban insurgents in a horrifically bloody attack on a military-run school in the city of Peshawar. In addition to disrupting civilian life with violence, the Taliban attacks have also impacted the economy, reportedly costing as much as $5 billion a year.

Yemen — 3.7 percent

In Yemen, a bloody civil war has killed more than 4,500 people in the last six months. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels currently control the capital of Sanaa, and a number of top officials, including the country’s nominal president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, remain exiled in Riyadh. In March, Saudi Arabia launched an airstrike campaign against the Houthis, which has since been blamed for a large number of civilian deaths. But Hudson said the Saudi campaign is too recent to have impacted the country’s numbers. The risk level is more likely related violence between Houthis and government forces last year.

Source by:

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( merhrom) Posted in Uncategorized

Rohingyas In Arakan State In Fear After Seeing Stranger Movements In Towns And Villages

Rohingyas In Arakan State In Fear After Seeing Stranger Movements In Towns And Villages

In this Sept. 13, 2013 photo, residents warily look at visitors to Ba Gone Nar village center, in Maungdaw, northern Rakhine state, Myanmar. In Ba Gone Nar, a rambling village of around 8,000 where the response by authorities has been the most brutal and indiscriminate following 2012 sectarian violence, residents peered cautiously through the slats of the tall bamboo fences, then beckoned foreign journalists through their gates, each desperate to tell their story. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
RB News
September 21, 2015
Maungdaw, Arakan – In some townships in Arakan State, the Rakhines are threatening that they will terrorize the Rohingya on the day of Eid, an Islamic holy day on the 25th of September. Rakhines from Kyauktaw, Minbya, Myebon, Sittwe, Rathedaung, Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships have been reportedly threatening that the Bengalis will slaughter the cows on Eid day, so they, the, Rakhines will slaughter the Bengalis on that day.
In Maungdaw and Buthidaung many strangers believed to be from Arakan Army are moving around, according to the residents. Many Rakhine strangers are moving in Ngakura, Kanpyin, Sabei Pyin, Laungdone, Kyain Chaung, Yan Aung Pyin, Thurein, Aung Thayar, Ngwar Yone Taung village tract Rakhine hamlet in Maungdaw North and in Maungdaw South, Vesali, Kaye Myaing, Bawdi Gone, Thayay Konebaw village tract Ywa Thit hamlet, Kaing Gyi, Mawrawaddy, In Taungpyo Latwal sub-township, Thae Chaung, Nant Tha Taung, In Buthidaung Township downtown quarters, villages in northern part, especially in Kin Chaung village.
Sometime those Rakhine strangers in Maungdaw North were reported moving around by wearing Border Guard Police uniform. At night they organize meetings at monasteries and the big houses of Rakhine residents.
As many strangers appear in many townships the Rohingyas in Arakan State fear that something may happen on Eidul Adha day. As there threats were made at the same time these strangers were moving suspiciously.
Local Rohingya are increasingly concerned and worried for their safety.
Earlier this month, the military seized the weapons from the monastery in Ka Kyat Phat village in Buthidaung Township.
By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( merhrom) Posted in Uncategorized

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